Book Review: Step Back

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Our business culture today is always on. That wasn’t always the case. When I started out in business fifty years ago, you got some natural downtime.  No one from the office called you at home in the evening or on weekends unless it was an emergency. Today, some people sleep with their smart phones right next to them so they can respond to emails in the middle of the night.

Precious reflection time has been pushed out of many business leaders’ days. Most books about reflection suggest a change in habit or making reflection the priority. Joseph Badaracco’s approach is different.

Badaracco suggests what he calls “mosaic reflection” to deal with always-on reality. Step Back: Bringing the Art of Reflection into Your Busy Life includes many descriptions of leaders doing reflection on the fly. Instead of looking for regular, significant times to reflect, these leaders grab small moments here and there.  In effect, Badaracco says, “We can’t change the world, so let’s how we reflect.”

I disagree. Effective reflection takes enough time to sharpen memories and thinking. You need time to connect dots that you won’t connect while you’re running between meetings. Six five-minute stretches of reflection do not equal a half hour spent with your journal.

There’s another difference between this book and other books on reflection. Badaracco connects reflection to some classical Western traditions. He references Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne, and Ignatius of Loyola. He connects current attitudes toward reflection with some of the classic prayer disciplines. That’s unique and helpful.

Two kinds of readers will get value from this book. Harried leaders looking for ways that other harried leaders have split their reflection into little bits will like this book. Badaracco interviewed “over 100” leaders and shares many of their experiences and observations.

If the process of reflection and meditation fascinates you, you will probably enjoy this book. This is the only book I know of that connects current “mindfulness” practices with classic Western spiritual disciplines. I loved this aspect of the book

In A Nutshell

Step Back is worth your time if you’re an on-the-go, always-on business leader and you want some ways to reflect without changing your habits too much. You’ll also like this book if you’re interested in reflection, and especially if you’re interested in the ways today’s current mindfulness and meditation practices connect to classic Western spiritual disciplines.

Note: This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy of the book.


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